In the eastern part of the Chongwe District of Lusaka Province flows the Chongwe River on which the people of the Kapete area depend on for their livelihoods. This area consists of 14 villages, 2 wards, 3 agricultural camps, 4 primary schools and falls under chief Bunda Bunda of the Soli tribe.
The Kapete Landscape Project and communities are supported by staff of SKI partner and AEL collaborative member KATC (Kasisi Agricultural Training Center).
The Kapete area is close to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. It is experiencing rapid population growth as it is popular with retirees venturing into small-scale agriculture. In addition, there are around 1000 households keeping cattle and goats in the area and 3000 households that depend on irrigated vegetable farming.
Farming depends on two streams, originating in the Chainama hills which feed the Chongwe River. These streams used to have water until October each year. Now most of these water sources are dry by the end of June. Water has to be pumped from boreholes which means the water table is being depleted. The dry season is now eight months long. Contributing to the drying out of the rivers is deforestation as a result of charcoal production.
The communities in the Kapete area want to restore their water catchment area, reforest the area and ensure that the soil and rivers retain water for much longer.
They thus understand that their priorities must be to address deforestation, charcoal production, plus the overuse of rivers, streams and underground water. They also realise that they must stop soil erosion and increase soil fertility which will improve the water holding capacity of the soil.
Using agroecological practices to regenerate the landscape is the route they want to follow.
They aim to focus on tree planting, protecting the remaining woodlands and reduce soil erosion. If they can increase crop diversity and productivity simultaneously they believe they will improve both nutrition and their incomes in the long run.
The first steps have been to involve the whole community and its leadership and to agree on a plan of action. To get to this point KATC used a participatory community mapping process that helped everyone to agree on what the important issues were and what they need to do to have positive change.
SCOPE Zambia also conducted an ILUD (Integrated Land Use Design) training with community members. This process compliments the mapping process by providing a framework for holistic design of the landscape. This was followed by capacity building trainings in agroecological practices.
A priority was the establishment of community tree nurseries to start cultivating the trees that will be needed for reforestation. One of these nurseries are now independently run by the Shimwengwe women’s group. To ensure that the AE practices spread fast they set up learning sites on how to establish wood lots, fodder banks and how to contour sloping areas. Knowledge is also spread through the formation of community study circles, field days and farmer-to-farmer learning and exchange visits. These activities are motivating for farmers as they build on local efforts and further develop farmer and community expertise.
Staff and farmers were trained on documentation skills to ensure that progress in this landscape regeneration project is documented and can be shared with others.
The leadership of headmen and women involved in this project have been very important in taking the work forward. Involving staff from the Ministry of Agriculture in the trainings and especially the ILUD training has helped facilitate broader acceptance of the project from local leadership.
A critical realisation by the community has been a recognition that waiting for outsiders to tell them what their problems are and what they should do has not helped them in the past. The community realised that they must stop waiting for outsiders and take responsibility for their own problems.
Even though there have been trainings, follow up trainings and support to the communities is an immediate priority. There is also a need for ongoing dialogues as the issues are complex and the more community members deepen their understanding of the issues and the solutions, the more likely they will be able to take sustainable and effective actions. .
There has been a focus on actively involving women and youth to take on active roles and this needs to be continued.